Orchid Flowers Started to Wilt... why?

counselor4444(6A NJ)April 4, 2008

So, I brought this phal orchid back from Florida to NJ two and a half weeks ago. I believe it's a Sara Gold. Its potted in bark. I'm still getting the hang of watering and caring for orchids. (this is my second phal) I water it once a week. I also mist the leaves periodically.

I admit, its kind of hard for me to tell when I should water it. I know you are not supposed to let it get bone dry.

I watered it two days ago with fertlizer (Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Azalea, Camellia, Rhododendron Plant Food which says it's made for orchids)

the next day one flower started to wilt. then yesterday I saw another one started to wilt.

Here's the plant: (seems to have healthy green leaves)

Here's a close-up of the wilting flowers:

How dry should I let it get before watering?

Is the wilting caused by the fertlizer or overwatering?

TIA!

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tab64(9b FL-Orlando)

How long have the flowers been open? If you bought it in bloom 2.5 weeks ago then it may be the life span on that flower since you don't know how long it was open before purchase. Some phal's can stay in bloom for months some only a few weeks. This hybrid, I have just a different clone, will rebloom from old spikes as well as send out new ones a few times a year.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 10:41AM
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mehitabel(z6 MO)

As Tab points out, old flowers do wilt, and when you buy a plant in bloom, you don't know how old the flowers are. But here's a hint-- Sara Gold for the most part, the flowers have an intense color and a kind of lustre or sheen. If the older flowers are less intense and no sheen, they probably are old.

That said, Sara Gold flowers do last a long time, more than a month or two.

About your watering: A once a week schedule is too rigid-- it's too often if the plant is in dim light, and if the bark is old. An orchid that is watered too often gets root rot, and the whole plant declines and will die.

You have to water when it needs it, not on a schedule. Use the skewer method described in the FAQ, or learn to tell when it's dry by hefting the pot. It should be *moist*, not wet for long periods.

Fertilizer should be given at 1/4 the dose recommended on the package, as phal roots are sensitive to absorb minutes quantities of nutrients.

If you are serious about trying to help your beautiful Sara Gold thrive, you have to do some reading up, so you can start to get an idea of what it needs. Url to Canadian Orchid Congress culture notes is below. Also check out the culture notes at Big Leaf Orchids and Bedford Orchids, both of which have good advice for new indoor growers.

Here is a link that might be useful: COC culture sheets

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 11:15AM
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AMYQofU(z9 NorCal)

Florida to NJ is a big change - enough for the flowers to decide it's time to quit, especially if they were fully open already. I've had phals that keep their flowers after I bring them home, and some that don't transition as well but do fine the next time they bloom. As far as when it's time to water many orchid growers (including me) use a bamboo skewer inserted in the medium to test. Pull out, if it feels wet or cold against your lip or wrist, don't water yet. The skewers are easily found at the grocery store - for kabobs - and I leave mine in the plants all the time. Also check the FAQ's.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 11:22AM
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AMYQofU(z9 NorCal)

sorry to repeat what mehitabel said, I was typing while she was posting!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 11:29AM
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orchid126(z6, NJ)

Orchids, once in bud and bloom, don't need fertilizer at all. When bloom is finished and new growth is desired will be the time for fertilizer. When my plants are in bud I use plain water only. I found that I lost buds and/or blooms immediately after fertilizing, so I stopped doing it.

The change in humidity alone from Florida to here in New Jersey would be a big shock to the plant, and most especially to buds.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 1:31PM
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counselor4444(6A NJ)

I'm going to get the bamboo skewers and try that. Thanks all!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 1:32PM
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counselor4444(6A NJ)

and i'm going to follow the advice of orchid 126 and not fertilize while in bloom.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 1:45PM
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sweetcicely(S7 USDA9 No.CA)

Counselor,

Like orchid126, having had the same bloom loss, I never fertilize after the first Phal bloom opens.

Blooming Phals can use up that last bit of moisture quickly, so they take a little more careful attention. In my experience, the blooms are the first to go when the medium goes dry.

As someone on the forum suggested recently, you may find that a wooden pencil (cedar or other, but not synthetic wood) gives you a more definite indication of moisture. Judging moisture from a bamboo skewer is often too subtle for me. If there is space in the medium, you can also just stick your finger well down into it (2+ inches) to test for moisture. When it feels barely moist, it is time to water.

Here's hoping you are able to stablize your pretty Sara Gold and enjoy the rest of the blooms for months to come!

Sweetcicely

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 3:49PM
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albertan(Florida (10))

Too strong a fertilizer solution while plant is in bloom is a definite possibility--as is length of bloom before you bought it. Is there ripening fruit in the room? Ethylene gas released by ripening fruit will cause quicker "ripening" of the blooms, too. I have many phals whose bloom periods extend 5-8 months, and I use dilute fertilizer with each watering, flushing with plain water every fifth or sixth watering. Wish I could post picture of my colorful phal area. I expect the riot of color to to remain just that for another three months before I start thinning out the stems to allow a return to growth stage. After supporting two to seven bloom spikes, they deserve a well earned rest. All are in S/H culture.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 1:05AM
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